The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has begun operation of remotely piloted aircraft in the vicinity of the Strait of Gibraltar, to provide the Spanish Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda with the capacity to monitor sulphur and nitrogen emissions from passing ships.
The pollutant data gathered will be used to support the monitoring of compliance with existing regulations, checking air pollution levels from vessel emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide.
While the main aim of the programme is to check passing ships’ pollutant compliance, the drones can also be directed to support the Spanish Maritime Safety Agency (SASEMAR) for search and rescue, EMSA says.
Other potential complementary tasks include suppression of trafficking and smuggling operations, fisheries control, and vessel traffic management.
The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) used is a Camcopter S100 unmanned helicopter operated by EMSA contractor Nordic Unmanned, equipped with an emissions sensor from Explicit.
The sensor analyses the gas samples taken as the RPAS flies through the exhaust plume of the ship’s funnel or stack. Calculations are then made to determine sulphur and nitrogen levels, with indications of non-compliance potentially triggering an inspection at the next port of call to determine whether an infringement has taken place.
RPAS services are offered free to all EU member states by EMSA to assist in maritime surveillance operations and ship emission monitoring, in all seas surrounding the European Union.